A few comments on President Bush's speech tonight.
The Bush administration continues to use the blunt instrument of repetition to attempt to convince the American public that the fighting in Iraq falls under the rubric of the War on Terror.
The evidence that Iraq ever had anything to do with any terrorist attacks anywhere has been laughable. Can you remember any of it? It is easier to remember the fact that Osama bin Laden called Saddam Hussein an infidel. It is easier to remember that Hussein's political party was secular.
Not that Iraq has never been involved in interstate violence. They have certainly fought wars. If you believe the Bush administration, they were planning to use devastating weapons against the United States.
This would have been an act of war by another state, not an act of terrorism. The snafu pulled by the administration is to convince us that this is all part of a broader cause — the war against an amorphous evil known as terrorism.
Things going on in Iraq now could be called terrorism, like the recent bombing of a mosque. However, these terrorists did not exist until we made them. We have defeated the organized forces of resistance, the army and regime, so now it has become disorganized and like a terrorist group. What did you expect? But this was an after-the-fact consequence, not a part of the justification for the original military action. The fighting in Iraq has nothing to do with the War on Terrorism.
This is more than a quibble about words and definitions. These particular words and definitions have political impact. If we consider something terrorism, it is automatically evil. Terrorism can never be good, by definition. It is therefore very difficult to mount a rational and effective opposition to anything that is successfully portrayed as a way to fight terrorism.
It also makes the threat feel very personal and direct, since terrorism, also by definition, targets civilians. If President Bush can offer a plan to protect us from this fear, it makes him very appealing.
More importantly, the War on Terrorism can never be won. More importantly, we will never be allowed to think that it has been won. The targets of this war live in the murky cloak-and-dagger world of our intelligence services. We have to trust the government to tell us when and where a threat exists. We can never be right about the existence or nonexistence of a threat because we do not have access to their special information.
Such blind trust enables the government to pursue any agenda at will, as long as they can cloak it in the War on Terrorism. If we don't question whether an action is really part of the War on Terrorism, we will continually be led into conflicts around the globe that actually may be motivated by far different interests.
Don't you remember saying President Bush saying something about Weapons of Mass Destruction a few months ago? There was virtually no mention of them in the speech tonight. The only mention of them was a statement that Iraq had possessed and used such weapons in the past. This is true. They used them in their war with Iran. Perhaps, in fact, they used them all up. Where are they now? Still no answer.
We can't just pull out of Iraq, given the state we have put it in. I do hope that the international community gets more involved. The important thing for me is to believe that we really are there for humanitarian reasons, to prevent suffering and loss of life. The more countries involved, the less any of them can pursue any other particular agenda. However, we should treat this military action as its own case, not as part of a larger war. Otherwise, we will end up supporting not only this single humanitarian action, but countless more actions in the future.